Experiments with the Academic Book (UCL Press)

While it may have limited crossover in its totality, a short article recently written for the ‘Academic book of the Future’ by UCL Press and the British Library touches a little on some of the pedagogic considerations behind the PBC and thus may be of interest. The full post can be found here.


Perhaps counter-intuitively the photobook – a form which is expensive to make, buy and distribute, not to mention time-consuming – is experiencing something of a golden age (Crager, 2014), which to others seems an unhealthy cult (Bush, 2016). This phenomenon, linked to both post-digital pragmatism and oppositional reaction has lead to a landscape in which there is firstly an abundance of new works, and secondly (in relation to the first) an absence of considered discussion around the merits of new works or the hailing of classics. This presents a problem to the student of the photobook – including the formal academic student, as well as the photographer, designer, binder and publisher. Fundamentally the The Photobook Club looks to one of the most overlooked agents in the life of the photobook – the reader.

2 replies on “Experiments with the Academic Book (UCL Press)”

That was an interesting read–I clicked through to the text. However, I can’t get away from the impression the the term “photobook” refers to the “literary” photobook, in the same way the term “literary” fiction is trying to give itself greater legitimacy over merely genre writers. The unifying variable is the socioeconomic group represented by the makers, readers, and critics, a small, affluent group of individuals. And, as far as that goes, it is fine. But if there is something more to photobooks than the values of that small group, I have yet to find it articulated. As a maker, I just wish there was more room for other voices.

Thanks Will. I completely agree, and in fact in a few days have a short post about an area of my research into photobook terminology which is not intended as an archival activity but way in which to better understand the purpose of works without hierarchy. I think it is quite true that the photobook has sought to elevate itself (though this is of course primarily through the makers, critics and industry built around and who have an interest in such a position), and share your frustrations about audience. More soon!
Best, Matt

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